Weekly Columns

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘honesty is the best policy.’ While this makes sense, it’s not always practiced and it probably comes as no surprise that Washington often fails to follow this simple rule of thumb.

The American people have a right to expect honesty, accountability, and responsibility from the government, but Washington continuously relies on budget gimmicks and accounting tricks that hide the true cost of how much Congress is spending. These misleading and deceptive practices must end.

This is why I cosponsored the Honest Budget Act. This bill would put an end to some of Washington's most blatant and dishonest budget gimmicks and hold Congress accountable for unsustainable spending. With a national debt of over $15 trillion, it is past time we commit to honest budget practices. Since 2005 alone, the gimmicks addressed in the bill have allowed hundreds of billions in deficit spending that prolongs the cycle of fiscal irresponsibility.

The unfortunate reality is that nearly 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. The Congressional Budget Office recently projected a $1.079 trillion deficit for our current fiscal year, an increase from the office’s August calculation. This is unsustainable.

I am committed to being part of the solution by putting honesty back into budgeting. This begins at the most basic level - creating a budget. It’s been more than 1,000 days since the Senate Majority has produced a budget and that trend looks unlikely to change soon. Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that, for the third year in a row, he would not bring a budget plan up for an open debate on the Senate floor. This is a failure to plan for our fiscal future as our debt continues to climb.

The Honest Budget Act forces Congress to make a budget a priority, requiring a 60-vote threshold before any appropriation bill can be moved through the Senate—unless both houses have agreed to a binding budget resolution.

We see this with ‘emergency’ spending bills. While there is a clear need for assistance when natural disasters strike our country, additional spending is routinely added that is not related and should not be designated ‘emergency.’ For example, Congress included $210 million in ‘emergency’ spending for the 2010 Census, despite the Constitutional rule calling for this routine count. The Honest Budget Act increases transparency to ‘emergency’ spending bills and requires a supermajority of the Senate for this label.

Both political parties are to blame. We need to step on the brakes and reverse course to restore honesty in the way Washington budgets. The Honest Budget Act is a commonsense approach to creating an open, transparent budget process that cuts spending and restores integrity in government.  These are principles we need to restore in Washington so that we put our nation back on a path to prosperity.